The Kidron Valley is one of Jerusalem’s most sacred locales, due to its location between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives. It runs from eastern slope of Mount Moriah through the Judaean Desert and continues for about 20 miles towards the Dead Sea.
This part of the Kidron is also called the Valley of Jehosafat, where God will judge the nations of the world (Joel 3:12). Another name for the valley is the Vale of the King; it was once intensely cultivated and the revenues went to the king.
A visit to the Catholic Church of Gethsemane is one of the highlights of religious experience for Christian believers. This is where Jesus came after the Last Supper. Here he was also caught and brought before the High Priest. At the entrance to this place is an ancient olive tree garden, which leads to a beautiful structure with twelve domes representing the Twelve Apostles. The domes are decorated with various symbols which relate to the twelve countries which took part in the building of this church. Near the eastern wall is a rock on which, according to tradition, Jesus sat in seclusion. The rock is surrounded by a metal lattice which is designed as a Crown of Thorns. During the digging of the foundations for this church, the remnants of an ancient Byzantine church were discovered and the new church was built according to the design of the old one, including the colorful floor mosaics. In the church’s floor are set glass panels which cover the ancient Byzantine mosaic floor. Many olive trees have recently been brought here to restore the ancient landscape.
Grave of Mujir al-Din
The monument of Mujīr al-Dīn al-‘Ulaymī (1456–1522) was a Jerusalemite qadi and historian whose principal work chronicled the history of Jerusalem and Hebron in the Middle Ages. Entitled al-Uns al-Jalil bi-tarikh al-Quds wal-Khalil (“The glorious history of Jerusalem and Hebron”) (c. 1495), it is considered to be invaluable, constituting “the most comprehensive and detailed source for the history of Jerusalem” written in its time.
The Kidron also has the earliest tombs in the cemetery:
Named after a First Temple priest. Tomb of Zechariah is curved out of the bedrock. The legend has it that the Jewish priest Zechariah, son of Yehoyada the Priest, was scolding people in front of the temple for worshiping the pagan idols. Angry crowd has stoned him to death.
Tomb of the Sons of Hezir
A Second Temple-era priestly family. Bnei Hazir tomb is situated right next to Zarchariah’s tomb and is dated back to the beginning of the 1BC, during the Hasmonean rule over Jerusalem. The tomb is a burial cave dug right into the cliff. At the entrance a Hebrew inscription reveals it to be a burial place for Cohanim or priestly family by the name of Bnei Hezir.
The Tombs of James and Zechariah lie outside the walls of the Old City, in the Kidron Valley. Although the tomb on the left has traditionally been identified by Christians as that of James, the head of the early church in Jerusalem, an inscription inside the tomb establishes it as the tomb of the Bene Hezir, the sons of Hezir. It is not clear how this particular tomb came to be associated with James. The inscription is translated as follows:
This the tomb and the nephesh of Eleazer, Haniah, Jo’azar, Iehudah, Shime’on, Iohannan, (the) sons of Joseph sone of ‘Obed (and also) of Joseph and Eleazer (the) sons of Haniah, priests (of the family) of the sons of Hezir.
King David fled across the Kidron Valley escaping from his rebellious son Absalom who had a blind ambition to be a king at the expense of his father. After the rebellion was dealt with Kind David instructed one of his generals, Joab, to “deal gently with the young man”. Joab has caught up with Absalom and killed him defying King David’s orders. He buried him in a pit instead of beneath the pillar Absalom had built for himself.
Located on the eastern side of Kidron Valley and facing the Temple Mount, the Tomb of Absalom with its conical shaped roof was cut out of the solid rock. Although traditionally it was associated with prince Absalom, archeologists have determined that shrine can be dated back to the 1st century A.D. In the Middle Ages and even up to 100 years ago the Jews used to spit or throw stones at the Absalom pillar to show their disgust for disloyal son of their beloved king.
This part of the Kidron is also called the Valley of Jehosafat. The cave behind Absalom’s Tomb is called Jehosafat’s Cave.